The Simile of the Horse

Excerpted from informal remarks after a talk, July 23, 1981.

 . . . I don't know where my courage came from.   Just think -- the fear I used to feel for Ven.   Acariya Mun, I didn't feel at all.   I was bold.   I wanted to speak.   I wanted to tell him what I had experienced.   The mind was impetuous and spoke right up without any fear.   That was when he got to see my true nature.   Before that, I had never shown anything at all.   No matter what the mind had been like, I had never behaved that way; but once this awareness arose, I went up to see him when there were just the two of us and told him right away.   It was as if he were the master of a dog, urging me on to bite the defilements.   Ven.   Acariya Mun -- who could be more astute than he?   As soon as I went up to see him, I started right in speaking without any fear.

Once the mind knows the truth, together with how it has contemplated, it can describe it all, including the results that appear.   It can describe them in full detail.   While I was speaking, he listened in silence.   As for me, I kept right on going.   'This crazy guy doesn't just fool around' -- that's probably what he was thinking.   'When his madness is on the rise, he's really in earnest.' That's probably what he said to himself.

As soon as I had finished, he burst right out:   'That's the way it's got to be!' He really got going, and I bowed down and listened.   'We don't die up to five times in a single lifetime,' he said.   'We die only once.   So keep on striking away.   You've finally caught on to the basic principle.   You've finally got it, so keep wrestling with it.' I was like a dog he spurred on -- I was so happy.   Coming away from him, I was ready to bark and to bite.   I kept fighting away.   That is, I continued sitting all night in meditation and kept telling him the Dhamma I had gained.   Sitting in meditation all night -- I did it more than nine or ten times that Rains Retreat, and I wasn't just sitting as normal, because I was wrestling with my full strength, both because of the marvels I was seeing and because of my frustration over the way my mind had regressed earlier.   These two got added together, so that the mind had the full strength of frustration and daring.   As time passed though, Ven.   Acariya Mun finally gave me a warning -- a single flash:   'The defilements don't lie in the body,' he said.   'They lie in the heart.'

He then gave a comparison with a horse.   'When a horse is unruly and won't listen to its master, the master has to give it really harsh treatment.   If he has to make it starve, he should make it starve -- really treat it harshly until it can't make a move.   Once it finally stops being rebellious, though, he can let up on the harsh treatment.   When its rebelliousness weakens, the harsh treatment can be relaxed.' That's all he said -- and I understood immediately.   If he had said more than that . . . He knew what sort of person I was:   He was afraid I'd go completely limp.   So he gave just a flash of a warning, and I understood . . . .

Tree Line

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